Tom Hart, Tuesday 8th November 2011 I’m at sea on the MV Pharos SG. I’ve flown in from Santiago, had a night in Stanley (Falkland Islands) and then joined the ship. The Pharos is the fisheries patrol vessel for South Georgia, and has a remit to deter vessels from fishing illegally in the area. She’s about 60 metres long, quite comfortable but rolls a fair bit. It’s a great crew, all very friendly and open, showing us around the ship and always welcoming us onto the bridge. My task over the coming weeks is to help out on the South Georgia rat eradication project. Although the whaling and sealing industries have long gone, their legacy remains. Introduced on the ships of sealers and whalers in the 19th and 20th Centuries, rats have had a devastating impact on local seabird populations. Today we started to make detailed plans about landing sites and where to camp. I’m excited about the prospect of getting back out into the field on South Georgia. I’ll start off on the Barf Peninsula, which is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, although anywhere on South Georgia is paradise! So, as usual, the point of this trip this season is to monitor penguins and to get to more sites across the Antarctic Peninsula and its surrounding islands, and set up more monitoring stations. However, for the next couple of months I’m primarily a rat catcher. When South Georgia was the capital of whaling in the Southern Ocean, the amount of whaling traffic without any bio-security introduced rats to the island. This has wiped out the ground nesting birds on many parts of South Georgia. The aim is to get rid of rats while they are in relatively small, isolated populations before the glaciers retreat totally and allow them to move around more of South Georgia. As part of this, we’re doing trapping and genetics to work out the population structure of rats. As with penguins, knowing about how the population is faring tells you important things about areas in which rats can interbreed and which do not. However, whereas with penguins the point is to conserve them effectively, with the rats we are trying to work out the units to eradicate at any one time. The good thing is that we’ll be passing loads of penguin colonies. When we do, I’ll be getting samples and setting up monitoring sites. Once again, a tough job, but someone has to do it... We’re due into King Edward Point in two days, then we have a couple of days training and then we’re off into the field. I’m working with Andy from the South Sandwich Islands trip earlier this year, so we should be fairly slick. That’s the hope, at least. Hasta la huego for now, Tom Hart Penguinologist, Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Subscribe to the Penguin Science 2012 RSS feed.
Select a blog
Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Follow the latest news on ZSL’s Arts & Culture projects at ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos, and ZSL’s conservation work through the lense of the Arts.
Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.
Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs
Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.
Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.
One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.
From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.
Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica
Amur leopard conservation blog
Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!
Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.
The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.
Follow ZSL’s amphibian experts in their quest to find out why 41% of the world’s amphibians are threatened and what can be done to stop more species becoming extinct.
Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.